How can government show its seriousness in fighting the national haze situation when it has diluted instead of tightened the anti-haze plan which was approved by the Cabinet three weeks ago on August 20?


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday):
The announcement by the National Disaster Relief Management Committee Chairman, Datuk Mohamed Rahmat that emergency as a result of the haze would only be declared if the Air Pollutant Index (API) hits 500, the maximum bar of the API hazardous band, and that schools would be closed if the API registers 400 must have caused general unease among the people, giving the impression that the government is not sufficiently serious about the worst haze situation in the nationís history.

How can the government show its seriousness in fighting the national haze situation when it has diluted instead of tightened the anti-haze plan which was approved by the Cabinet three weeks ago on August 20?

After the August 20 Cabinet meeting, the Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding announced that the Cabinet had approved a five-level alert action plan drawn up by the National Haze Committee.

According to press reports, the plan begins with an early alert when the air quality is unhealthy for less than 72 hours (100 to 200 on the API), stage two when the air quality is unhealthy for more than 72 hours, stage three when the air quality is very unhealthy for more than 48 hours (200 to 300), stage four when the air quality is hazardous for more than 24 hours (300 to 400) and stage five (above 400).

During the early alert stage daily public broadcasts of the air pollutant index will be made, motorists will be encouraged to car pool, construction and quarry sites will have to use sprinklers to suppress dust, and industries will be told to reduce their emissions. Air surveillance, enforcement and monitoring of forests, dumpsites, estates, plantations and quarry sites will also be increased at this stage, while schools will be closed at stage four.

Although the five-level alert action plan approved by the Cabinet on August 20 provides for the closure of schools at stage four, when the air quality is hazardous for more than 24 hours (300 to 400), this has now been unilaterally altered by the National Disaster Relief Management Committee Chairman, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat who announced that schools would be closed if the API registers 400.

This seems to be a very unprofessional way of fighting the national haze.

It is most shocking that despite the worsening haze situation, and after more than three weeks of the Cabinet approval, the full details of the five-level alert action plan has not been made public to enlist fully public support to fight the haze crisis.

The government should make public the entire details of the five-level alert action plan to fight the haze and explain why this action plan had not been implemented, and further, why it had been modified even before implementation without any reference back to the Cabinet.

(16/9/97)


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong